If you love character-driven stories and haven’t watched “Rectify,” you should start NOW. Although “Rectify” just wound up its first season, you can still watch it via On Demand and several websites, including Sundance, and be ready when the second season begins (date yet to be determined).
What makes “Rectify” so special and unique? Story,writing and acting are the easy, but true answers. However, “Rectify” takes each one of these attributes to the enth degree and then some.
Set in a small town in Georgia,“Rectify” is about Daniel Holden, who as teenager went to prison, convicted for the rape and murder of his high school girlfriend. He sat on death row in solitary confinement for 19 years. We meet Daniel just as he is being released on a technicality, although not completely exonerated for the crime.
Aden Young as Daniel is a revelation. It would never have occurred to me to portray Daniel as he does, but his performance makes absolute sense and is sheer perfection. We’re told Daniel was a “little different” as a teenager, but not told what made that so. Whatever it was, nearly 20 years in solitary has only served to accentuate that “differentness.” The Daniel we and his family meet is a wide-eyed innocent who speaks slowly and softly. It’s simple to say that he’s a modern Rip Van Winkle come to life, but to some extent that is true. The world in general is completely changed…as well as his intimate, smaller world. His father is dead…his mother has remarried…he now has a step-brother and a much younger half-brother. Finally, his beloved younger sister has become a woman and his chief defender and protector. How would you—how would any of us cope with these developments?
Through some remarkable flashbacks to Daniel’s prison life, we learn his imprisonment was no walk in the park. Horrific doesn’t begin to describe what he went through. Thankfully, not all of those scenes are violent…some of the scenes with a fellow prisoner are heartbreakingly deep and poignant
Perhaps it’s the ying and yang of emotions, for us and for Daniel, that make “Rectify” so special. Is he guilty of the crime? We’re not really sure. Some of his town residents are welcoming, others are fearful or fear-inducing. Daniel’s step-father believes Daniel is innocent while his step-brother does not. We love how his sister stands up for him, but worry that her love will get them both in trouble.
Actor Ray McKinnon is “Rectify’s” brilliant creator. He has assembled a fantastic cast headed by Young, but every other character has just the right actor playing him or her. Especially terrific are J. Smith-Cameron as his mother, Abigail Spencer as Daniel’s sister Amantha, Clayne Crawford as Daniel’s step-brother, Ted Jr. and Adelaide Clemens as Ted Jr.’s wife, Tawney.
“Rectify,” with very little buzz or fanfare, is one of the best shows on television this year, or any year for that matter. Get yourself to a television or computer screen and be prepared to be blown away.
4 nuggets out of 4